If you read my list of startups using artificial intelligence in drug discovery, you may have wondered: how much traction do these companies actually have? And perhaps, if you work for a pharmaceutical or biotechnology company, a related question: are any of my competitors working with them?

To help answer such questions, this post summarizes how pharmaceutical companies apply artificial intelligence in drug discovery, including through partnerships with AI startups. As with my startup list, I aim to keep this regularly updated. So if I'm missing anything (which I certainly am, because details of partnerships are often kept secret), or you have news to share, please email me. Or post in the comments.

Here's the list:

Contents

  1. AbbVie
  2. Amgen
  3. Astellas
  4. AstraZeneca
  5. BASF
  6. Bayer
  7. Boehringer Ingelheim
  8. Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS)
  9. Celgene
  10. Eisai
  11. Eli Lilly
  12. Evotec
  13. GSK
  14. Genentech
  15. Gilead
  16. Ipsen
  17. Janssen
  18. Lundbeck
  19. Merck Group
  20. Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma
  21. Nestlé
  22. Novartis
  23. Novo Nordisk
  24. Ono Pharmaceuticals
  25. Pfizer
  26. Roche
  27. SK Biopharmaceuticals
  28. Sanofi
  29. Santen
  30. Servier
  31. Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma
  32. Sunovion
  33. Takeda
  34. Wave Life Sciences
  35. Yuhan Corp.
  36. Zambon Pharma

Companies

AbbVie

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AbbVie hasn't publicly promoted its use of AI as much as some other pharmaceutical companies. But I have met members of its AI team and seen presentations that convince me it's a leader. In particular, I've been impressed by AbbVie's practical use of AI for automation.

Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for AbbVie:

Amgen

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Amgen also hasn't publicly promoted its use of AI as much as some other pharmaceutical companies. But I have seen presentations at conferences that convey unique and sophisticated application of machine learning. In particular, I was impressed by a process that Amgen is developing to generate novel biologic drugs with machine learning.

Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Amgen:

Astellas

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Astellas appears to be focusing AI drug discovery on repurposing existing compounds. It published a news release about "Drug Repurposing & Application Management" in February 2015, for example (this release is no longer available online). It also has a number of partnerships in the area of drug repurposing.

Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Astellas:

AstraZeneca

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Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for AstraZeneca:

BASF

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Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for BASF:

Bayer

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Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Bayer:

Boehringer Ingelheim

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Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Boehringer Ingelheim:

  • Healx: In December 2019, rare disease drug repurposing specialist Healx announced a partnership with BI to identify indications related to rare neurological diseases. Healx will look for new indications for assets in BI's pipeline. ("Healx Joins Forces with Boehringer Ingelheim to Discover New Treatment Approaches for Rare Neurological Diseases," 12/9/2019.)
  • Machine Learning Ledger Orchestration for Drug Discovery (MELLODDY): BI is a member of the MELLODDY project, which will train machine learning models on datasets from multiple partners while ensuring the privacy of each partner using federated learning. ("MELLODDY | IMI Innovative Medicines Initiative," 6/1/2019.)
  • Nanna Therapeutics: BI will use Nanna's "Totally Integrated Medicines Engine" platform to identify novel small molecule lead compounds. Note: Nanna's previous name was "Bactevo." ("Boehringer partners with Bactevo on drug discovery - PMLiVE," 5/14/2018.)
  • Numerate: One of the earliest AI drug discovery partnerships I could find predates the recent hype about machine learning. Between the Canadian arm of Boehringer Ingelheim and Numerate, it doesn't even refer to AI. The Numerate press release states that it is "leveraging the power of cloud computing and novel computational methods to transform the drug design process." The partnership is focused on generating small molecule drug leads for an unnamed infectious disease target. ("Numerate and Boehringer Ingelheim (Canada) Form Drug Discovery Collaboration," 12/6/2011.)

Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS)

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Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS):

Celgene

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Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) acquired Celgene, so look there for future information. I'm keeping this here for historical reference.

Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Celgene:

Eisai

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Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Eisai:

    Eli Lilly

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    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Eli Lilly:

    Evotec

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    Evotec refers to itself as a "drug discovery alliance and development partnership company." Its partners include many more well-known pharmaceutical companies, such as Bayer, Sanofi, Genentech, Janssen, and UCB.

    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Evotec:

    GSK

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    GSK has been one of the most active pharmaceutical companies in applying artificial intelligence to drug discovery. It was one of the first to create an in-house artificial intelligence unit. (Initially called "Medicines Discovered Using Artificial Intelligence.” Now called “In silico Drug Discovery Unit.”) As of July 2019, GSK's AI team reportedly numbered about 50.

    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for GSK:

    Genentech

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    In addition to what I've outlined below, in September 2019, Genentech and parent Roche disclosed a predictive analytics project with a paper in Nature on using deep learning to predict which patients with diabetic retinopathy will progress the fastest.

    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Genentech:

    Gilead

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    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Gilead:

    Ipsen

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    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Ipsen:

    Janssen

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    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Janssen:

    Lundbeck

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    From what I can gather, Lundbeck was a bit later to the game than other pharmaceutical companies when it comes to AI. The earliest reports I can find come from 2017.

    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Lundbeck:

    • IBM: Given that IBM withdrew support for much of its Watson Health work, it's not clear if this partnership still exists. However, in February 2017 IBM announced a collaboration with Lundbeck to analyze information from clinical data through the Watson Health Cloud. The initial focus was deriving new understanding and potential treatments for schizophrenia and Parkinson’s disease. This included through access to anonymous health data for millions of patients in the Watson Health Cloud. ("IBM Watson Health and Lundbeck collaboration on use of artificial intelligence," 2/8/2017.)
    • Numerate: In January 2019, Numerate announced a collaboration with Lundbeck to identify drug candidates for central nervous system diseases including depression, psychosis, seizure, and neurodegenerative disorders. ("Numerate and Lundbeck Partner to Apply AI Drug Discovery to Unlock Challenges of Neuroscience Research," 1/7/2019.)

    Merck Group

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    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Merck Group:

    Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma

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    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma:

    • Hitachi: Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma partnered with Hitachi to optimize clinical trial planning with AI. Announced in March 2018, the partnership will use Hitachi’s Lumada platform. It will extract information from scientific papers and ClinicalTrials.gov. A pilot of the technology found time savings of 70%. ("Mitsubishi Tanabe, Hitachi join forces in AI-enabled clinical trials," 3/29/2018.)

    Nestlé

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    While not a traditional pharmaceutical company, Nestlé has a health science division. It aims to advance nutrition as therapy.

    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Nestlé:

    Novartis

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    On the commercial side, Novartis has been quite innovative in using digital media. Its heavily digital campaign for Gilenya, for example, won multiple awards. Recently, it began making big moves with artificial intelligence. CEO Vas Narasimhan announced in a September 2017 interview that he planned to partner with or acquire AI and data analytics companies. In June 2018, Business Insider published an interview with the outspoken Jay Bradner, president of the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (NIBR), about the company's progress with artificial intelligence. Bradner stated that 4% of the 6,000 scientists working at NIBR are data scientists. "We like to think of ourselves as the lead turtle in the race of the turtles," he said, referring to pharma's conservative adoption of emerging technology. A July 2018 report in InformationWeek highlighted completion of the first phase of Novartis' digital transformation in drug discovery. The company rebuilt its technology infrastructure and connected its data through a single hub. It's now developing a predictive analytics platform that uses machine learning algorithms for clinical trial operations.

    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Novartis:

    Novo Nordisk

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    Novo Nordisk included artificial intelligence as a focus of its September 2018 reorganization. The company laid off 400 R&D employees. But it increased investment in artificial intelligence for lead molecule selection and development.

    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Novo Nordisk:

    Ono Pharmaceuticals

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    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Ono Pharmaceuticals:

    Pfizer

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    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Pfizer:

    Roche

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    Roche has made relatively few big announcements about its use of AI for drug discovery. But I have seen presentations displaying a well-thought-out data management structure. In addition, in February 2018, Roche acquired Flatiron Health, an oncology-focused electronic health records company. Flatiron's massive amount of oncology data provides Roche with a tremendous asset for machine learning. Also, Roche and subsidiary Genentech disclosed a predictive analytics project in September 2019 with a paper in Nature on using deep learning to predict which patients with diabetic retinopathy will progress the fastest.

    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Roche:

    • Owkin: Roche is also one of the few pharmaceutical companies I've seen disclose work with IBM Watson Health. Roche worked with IBM on a study published in January 2019 using real-world data to predict chronic kidney disease in patients with diabetes ("GV invests in medical machine learning startup Owkin," 5/23/2018.)

    SK Biopharmaceuticals

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    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for SK Biopharmaceuticals:

    Sanofi

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    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Sanofi:

    Santen

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    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Santen:

    Servier

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    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Servier:

    Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma

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    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma:

    Sunovion

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    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Sunovion:

    Takeda

    30 logo

    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Takeda:

    Wave Life Sciences

    31 logo

    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Wave Life Sciences:

    Yuhan Corp.

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    Yuhan is a South Korean pharmaceutical and chemical company.

    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Yuhan Corp.:

    Zambon Pharma

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    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Zambon Pharma:

    Anything I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments. Add anything I left out or got wrong for the companies above. Or tell me about companies I haven't listed yet.

    Craving more information? Check out my posts on startups using AI in drug discovery and AI in drug discovery trends and statistics.

    Credits: Logos provided by Clearbit.

    Written By:
    Simon Smith

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